How are you?
How have your first days of staying home and schooling at home been?
I thought I’d take some time to put my thoughts, feelings, and experiences down. I don’t know if they’ll help anyone else, but maybe we can just all relate and find a way through together if we share how it’s going for us.
They closed our schools as we neared the end of spring break. That next week, the first one without sending the kids off to school, was pretty great! I was overwhelmed by the number of resources being shared and the number of people offering free courses/videos, etc. to help our kids learn. I’m passionate about learning and my kids love documentaries, non-fiction books, and asking questions. So, it was fun to think of all the great things we could learn that they were excited about. Plus, I know my kids and know where they need extra work — we quickly got ourselves into a routine that included work on math facts and spelling (things they have lacked in their education at school).
That first week also found us evaluating our food storage. Years ago, we bought a good amount of freeze dried food. It was a healthy supply when our family was just 2 or 3 of us. But we’ve grown to a family of 7 and in the last 2 years had a child develop a dairy allergy. Unfortunately, that food supply included a lot of dairy and we hadn’t ever thought of having a supply of a dairy free milk alternative. We’re also getting ready to move, so our normal pantry storage that we rotate through was being used up without being replaced so we wouldn’t have so much food when it was time to move.
Every time we get ready to move and we start using up food without replacing it to dwindle our pantry storage, it makes me worried and here we found ourselves in that exact situation. I was able to get one Walmart To Go order where only about 1/3 of my items could be filled . . . I was happy with what I could get but discouraged with the items that were missing. My husband also made one trip to the local grocery store, stood in line to get into the store, and texted back and forth with me over limits. I was discouraged again that the limits that were imposed were not even enough of things to get us through a week or in some cases, a meal for 7 people . . . 2 cans of tomato sauce, 2 loaves of bread, 2 cans of beans. He was able to get his hands on a 6-roll pack of toilet paper as the supply was quickly dwindling and we were grateful we already had some (not enough for weeks on end, though) in our cupboards.
We had put our house up for sale earlier in the month. We quickly had a contract but within a few days the buyer had changed her mind and backed out of the deal. When her earnest money check bounced, we felt grateful we hadn’t gotten any further in the process with her – who knows what could’ve happened further down the road. At that point, we realized we needed to have our roof replaced and we took our home off the market to take care of that so that it wouldn’t come up as a problem later on during an inspection. While we waited for storms to pass to have a couple clear days for the roofers, the world around us changed. My husband’s work, the reason for our move, decided to suspend all employee moves, until May 11th when they will re-evaluate things. May 11th was the day our move was originally scheduled for. And we now had a choice to make . . . go ahead with putting our home back on the market and take our chances of not being able to move (because of work) in May, or take our chances of not being able to sell our home at a later time if the econ0my and housing market fell apart. We prayed about it and felt good with the decision to go ahead and put the house back on the market.
Our second week brought a whole new experience and the beginning of our city’s’ “stay home, work safe” order.
But before the official “stay home, work safe” order went into place, we had Sunday with church and the sacrament at home. The morning was full of arguments and disagreements between kids and not wanting to cooperate with the plan we had for church at home. I was so tempted to just can it all and send everyone to their rooms for the day. But we didn’t. We gathered around the kitchen table and taught them about why we take the sacrament and how special it was to be doing it in our home. And as my husband blessed the sacrament, the Spirit filled the room and I had a very clear impression that everything would be okay and tears flowed down my face. The rest of the day was pretty good.
On Monday, our school district started distance learning. I love our kids’ teachers to death! I am grateful for how much they love our kids and how much they do for them. And I know they’re doing their best to figure all of this out, too. But week 2 was a nightmare! My husband, an essential worker, is now on a schedule of working every other week in order to reduce the number of people in the office at one time. Without his help, I would’ve surely lost my mind. He dug out 2 old laptops, we used our current laptop. and his and my ipad to give all 5 kids access to a device. We went for a walk every morning (if you’re not getting outside — this honestly helps soooo much!), had breakfast and gospel study and then got started with school work around 9:30. The first day there were broken links and 4 children needing constant help. Teachers were able to fix some things in that first day and we were able to teach our kids how to do some of the things on their own. And by the end of the week the 4th grader could work pretty independently. But the kindergartner requires almost constant help and the two 2nd graders require a lot of hep. The 6th grader was already being homeschooled and is just very disappointed with how his routine has been changed with all the kids home now — oh well, suck it up, kiddo!
After day 1, I knew some things had to change and I had to set boundaries. We decided we would spend 2 hours a day with school work from the teachers. That worked great for the younger 3. The 4th grader was a different story. She had a morning zoom meeting every day (45 min to an hour), throughout the week was expected to complete 5-7 assignments in each subject (each assignment had multiple parts to it), and then her teacher did a read-aloud zoom meeting to the class every day. The first day, the read-aloud was scheduled for right at our dinner time. I told my daughter, I was sorry, but that was family time and we weren’t going to interrupt it so she could listen to a story. I suggested she ask her teacher to record it so she could listen at another time. The teacher ended up changing the time to early in the afternoon (still outside of the school hours we had set up, but we made it work). She still ended up spending 3 to 4 additional hours on the computer doing assignments every day . . . so much more than I felt comfortable with. This was a chance for our family to do things together and do some learning things together and distance learning was driving me crazy! I seriously debated calling the school and withdrawing my kids to be homeschooled. On Friday, we heard from teachers: the district has decided to not give grades during distance learning and only look at who is participating. One teacher told us she wants the kids to spend no more than 1 hour a day working on assignments and they can spend additional time on their computer learning games. We were also told the new guidelines for teachers is to only give 1 or 2 assignments in each subject for the week. So, this is definitely looking more doable.
I’ve also spent a lot of time working on our home library. I love books and having good books at home for my kids. And we’ve found a lot of great resources that the kids are loving and that will be tools I can use to teach them . . . in addition to the things they are doing from their teachers. Between my husband and I, we have had fun doing activities with the kids (one or two a day) to keep busy in the afternoons. It is so much less stress than the assignments they’re doing from their teachers and it is our job as their parents to teach them! This last week, we learned about basic tools (screwdrivers, hammers, etc.), did soccer dills, made a timeline, online art lessons, and stem activities. Just one or two things a day is enough for us to enjoy some learning together and still allows for them to have free time playing.
In week 2, our food supply has been fine. I find myself worrying about it a lot, though. We ran out of bread today and I was able to make a couple loaves and then realized that I am out of rapid rise yeast which is required for my favorite bread recipe. I was trying to stay out of the stores for at least 2 weeks but we have a few little things that we need so we’re going to try another trip to the store at the beginning of next week. Breakfast foods are a big concern. I’m trying to be careful with milk and egg consumption since they are hard to come by but we still have plenty for our needs; I just worry about it. We haven’t been in the stores for over a week now so I’m hoping that things have calmed down at least a little. We won’t go hungry; I know we could get through the next week and several more weeks by depleting our pantry storage and our freeze dried supply but I worry about not having those things if the situation gets worse. I think I read somewhere that you could make your own oatmilk out of oats (which we have plenty of) so I may give that a try for our dairy free girl if almond milk is still hard to come by — it would definitely be a good thing to know!
On days 2 and 3 of week 2, the roofers were working at replacing our roof. I’m sure the frustration with school was only increased by the constant pounding going on above our heads. When I went to bed after the first day, I kept hearing pounding in my mind as I tried to sleep. It was a tough night. But they finished the roof without any problems and our house has been re-listed. And while realtors and those involved with the housing industry are listed as “essential workers” who are allowed to be out and about doing their jobs, the couple of weeks since we took our home off the market have brought a lot of changes. We don’t know if people will be looking anymore or if we missed our window of opportunity. We do know that everything will turn out okay . . . we just don’t know when that will be or how difficult it will be to get through.
Lessons I’ve learned in these first 2 weeks:
- Set reasonable boundaries for school work.
- It can be fun to make home a place of learning.
- Getting out of the house is so important: go for a walk or play outside.
- I need to store more powdered eggs, yeast, and dairy free milk (or learn how to make our own).
- Getting into a routine takes time.
- Closing the door to my room to just think by myself for a few minutes is a sanity saver.
- Husbands can be a great partner at home when they don’t have to go to work. (I appreciate my husband much more now than I did before this last week.)
- My family has to be my number 1 priority right now and that’s okay; in fact, it’s good.
- I have great kids and I like to spend time with them.
- It’s really hard to make time for reading scriptures and listening to uplifting talks when you’re consumed with taking care of your family’s needs all day. I need to make a better effort to fit more of that into my life this next week and see if it can bring me more peace through the day to day stresses.